Word of the Day

When is Now

Mark 10: 29 – 30

Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses, and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.”

Love, no matter whom it is for, includes sacrifice. Maturity requires that we subjugate our relentless self-pursuits in favor of caring for those we love. Sacrifice, though, has a reward. Every time we sow into another person, the seed produces a harvest.

Peter told Jesus, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You,” (Mark 10: 28). Jesus made it clear, though, that they had not actually sacrificed anything because God would repay a hundredfold. We cannot out give God, for whatever we give up for His sake or the sake of the gospel, He will repay a hundred times over.

The question I have is, do we believe this? It is a little hard to believe, isn’t it? This dialogue is actually set up in verse 27 where Jesus told them, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” You are hurting our brains here Jesus. It is interesting that Peter’s retort was a declaration of their holiness and sacrifice. Jesus answers saying all this will be returned to you and more besides and our brains just run off the rail. It is hard enough to even begin to wrap our heads around all things being possible but when Jesus brings the “all things” down to earth and closer to our sphere of reality, the impossible looms even larger. How is God going to give us all that Jesus promises in this passage?

One of the ways people have dealt with their inability to believe is to cast all of the blessing into the “age to come” as if our God has reserved all of the good things He is for heaven. If we truly believe God is omnipotent, why would He limit His goodness to heaven? Is He just unable to extend His blessing to earth? Jesus makes it abundantly clear, though, that he was not talking about the great by and by when we are all together in heaven. First, he uses the word “now.” In anyone’s lexicon the word now means now. It is not a complicated idea. Jesus also said, “in the present age.” How can that mean anything but now in the age in which we are living, our present, not our future. You have to be a contortionist to twist these words into “everything awaits us in heaven” and “it is not for us here on the earth.”

It seems, though, that a great many people easily latch onto and believe part of today’s verse. They will proudly claim that they suffer persecutions in the name of Jesus and for the sake of the gospel. They can believe for persecutions but not the hundred-fold return on seed. Why is that? Are not both in the same sentence? How is it that we can believe God for calamity but not for blessing? Who is our God, anyway? Or, who do we make Him out to be?

Jesus is the blessing. God did not send him here to condemn our lives but rather to save them. He is shalom, perfect peace, everything in perfect working order, nothing missing. That is who he is so if Jesus is in your life, then his peace, which is nothing missing, nothing broken, should also be in your life. If there is a broken part of your life, take it to Jesus and ask him why. Learn to receive the hundred-fold from him. Don’t deny Jesus for that is what it is when we confound his words, cloaking them in unbelief. Live to Jesus and receive his words with joy and faith.

Case Closed

Isaiah 43:26

Put Me in remembrance; let us argue our case together, state your cause, that you may be proved right.

There is an important lesson embedded in here. God tells us to call to His attention those things which He has said. He invites you to hold His words up to Him. Why is that so important? All of creation hangs on His words. If God ever made a statement that fits your situation, then He invites you to bring your case before Him and use His own words to argue your case. Not only that, though that is huge, God will be your co-counsel. What? Yep, that’s right. “Let us argue our case together.”

He didn’t say, “Come before My throne and argue your case.” He wants to do this with you and He considers it “our” case. He is in it with you. What is the purpose of all this? That you may be proved right. God is giving you this advice so that you may be proved right. He wants to prove you right. He is going to argue on your behalf that you are right, and my guess is that He is going to win.

If we wrap our heads around this, we certainly will have no more issues with righteousness. God has proved our righteousness. Who wants to argue against Him? Only a fool would do that.

There is much to appreciate in this verse but one take away is that He suggests taking His words into the throne room to argue your case. Whatever He has spoken is, right now, a promise to you. You have a cause of action based on any word, any promise He has ever spoken and, we already know you are going to win because He is going to back you. Anything He has ever said is already on the record and if you take it to Him, you will be proved right. In other words, you win! Did He ever say anything about healing? What about finances or family? Whatever He has said, remind Him and He will declare you the victor. If He said it, He will do it. Case closed.

Names

Isaiah 45: 3

And I will give you the treasures of darkness, and hidden wealth of secret places, in order that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.

There is an economy message in this verse and it should give you great comfort for your finances. You should ponder what God is saying about the hidden wealth and buried treasures. That, however, is not what I want to bring out from this scripture today. I wish for us to look just at the last phrase, “who calls you by your name.”

Yahweh is He who has called you by your name. He is the only God. There is none before Him, nor have any come after Him. It is He who has called you. “What, me?,” I can hear some of you saying. Yes, you. If you are a Christian it is because God called you and you had the intelligence to answer. Yea!

You are important in the Kingdom. God knows your name and has called YOU! That one fact ought to stir some joy within you. In an earlier chapter of Isaiah God said, “I have called you by name; you are Mine,” (Isaiah 43: 1). So, by the time we get to chapter 45, He is just reminding you. But wait, these are not the only places either. Way back in Exodus God said, “I have known you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight,” (Exodus 33: 12). Look at the similarities between these verses and I think you will be blessed.

You may say, though, “Well, God wasn’t speaking to me in those verses.” Wasn’t He? If He wasn’t, then why did He have them included in the Bible? This is that dynamic again of a historical record and a living Word. God is still ministering His Word to us today. Have you ever read a scripture and heard it bigger and louder than the surrounding verses? That is God personalizing that verse to you. He is trying to get your attention so that you read it as a personal note to you. That is the way you should read your Bible, as a personal letter from Yahweh God to you.

Before the beginning of time, God saw you and planned for you. He wrote your name down and waited for your day to come. Then He rejoiced when you were born. Thousands of years He waited for this day, the day when He could voice your name it be uniquely yours regardless of the number of people who share it. One other thing though, don’t be surprised if God has another name for you. He has shown a propensity to changing people’s names. Because you are precious in His sight, He calls you names which edify you. You can ask Him what your heavenly name is if you want. One thing I know about it, it will put a smile on your face.

You are His beloved and called to Him. He has called you by name. He has showered you with favor and with His love. The creator of the universe knows your name and has called you to Himself. I think that is a pretty big deal.

Healed and Whole

2 Chronicles 7: 14

If My people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

When you read the verses which precede this one you understand that God is saying, “In your time of need, if you will call out to Me and seek Me then I will hear and restore you.” This verse comes from the point of need, the time of trouble, so the first point I would make is how much more does this apply when we don’t have our backs to the wall because of our sin, recklessness or error.

The major point, though, is that God is standing at the ready when we finally get around to calling on Him. One can see the situation unfold like this, we have run around doing our own thing, ignoring God and have not sought His counsel. The result is inevitable – trouble. All the while God was sitting on His phone watching and waiting for us to call. He says, “Look, if you will just inquire of Me, I will fix everything. I will lead you in the way you should go and I will repair the damage your ignorance created.” That is amazing to me. This is the exact opposite of the world which says, “You made the bed, now sleep in it,” which of course means, you made the mess so deal with it. God is ever ready to rescue us, even from the calamity of our own making. He actually wants to heal and restore you.

Let’s talk about “your land” for a moment. The verse refers to God healing His people’s land. The Bible is a historical record and a living document at the same time. Therefore, this verse represents not only God’s promise to Israel, which would have been the application at the time it was spoken, but it also applies to you and me through the living Word, Jesus our Messiah. You see, if it was just a dead letter, it would only show us His response to Israel. However, we know that Jesus is the Word (John 1: 1). He has breathed new life into the Old Testament for everyone who calls him Lord. That has got to make you want to shout! All those Old Testament promises, like the one from today’s verse are yours in Christ Jesus. Yea!

You are His people who are called by His name. That is the first element of this verse. What are the others? Humility, prayer, seeking and repentance. If we will humbly seek Him and pray, turning away from our ways, He will respond with all His grace and love to heal your world. Your land may be your home, your work, business, health, finances, family or any other area. It can also apply to the country you live in or are from.  They are all under God’s grace when you invite Him in through humility, seeking His face and His advice. Find that quiet space in your life and seek the Lord and His counsel. Be whole. Be blessed!

Magic & Seeds

Matthew 14: 19 – 20

He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, and they all ate and were satisfied.

God has done some pretty incredible things. I am thinking about creation for one. From nothing He made everything, or did He? Hebrews 11: 3 tells us that God made the universe and all that is seen from that which is unseen, or invisible. Well, that makes sense. Even our own bodies are made of molecules too small to be seen. We are not, however, made from nothing. God isn’t a magician making rabbits or flowers appear out of thin air. He is a sower. Jesus said the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. Once sown, that seed becomes the largest plant in the garden.

Why am I telling you this? When you understand how God approaches things, it will help you understand the Bible and help you to tackle things in your own realm. You will be able to operate the same way God does and you won’t even need magic to do it.

In the story from today’s verse, Jesus fed about 20,000 people from two fish and five loaves of bread. How does one do that? It is called multiplication, but God multiplies in exponential numbers. He works by taking what you have and expanding it. He isn’t making something from nothing. He takes the little we have and makes a surplus, over and above all we can think or ask. After everyone was satisfied, the disciples went around and picked up the leftovers ending up with twelve baskets full.

So, imagine creation. Yahweh didn’t pull humans, zebra, giraffes, or crickets out of a magic hat. He created by sowing seed. It’s what He does. We didn’t just “pop” into existence. He had a plan and He instituted it and la voila, here we are. Think about that. He has a plan for you too. Jeremiah 29: 11 tells us that He has good plans for us, plans to give us hope and a good future. Yahoo! How will He do that? He is planting seeds all of the time.

Now, do you want to know a secret? He made you in His image and He expects you to move in the earth in the same manner as He. That is to say, He wants to teach you to plan and plant seeds too. What do you want? Plant a seed. Think about this and get excited. If you plant one tomato seed and it germinates and grows into a plant, how many seeds will that one plant generate? One source says the average tomato has between 150 and 300 seeds, though sometimes even more. Okay, so don’t eat all of the tomatoes. Even if you only plant the seeds from one tomato from your first plant that is 150 seeds minimum. If only half of them germinate and produce a plant, then you’ve got 75 fruit yielding plants in addition to the one you began with. Okay, what if you plant just one tomato from each of these plants. Now you have 150 X 76 which equals 11,400 seeds. Are you kidding me here? You are going to have a lot of tomatoes!

So what if it isn’t tomatoes that you need? Well, of course that was an example so let’s get real, but first I have to ask you a question. Do you believe Jesus and everything he said? Jesus taught this same principle. Matthew 13: 8 reads, “And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” These are red letter words. Jesus starts with a hundredfold return, then adds, sixty and thirty percent returns. So, let’s just rely on a thirty percent return. Are your current investments returning 30%? If so, call me.

What if you take one dollar and sow it into the good soil of God’s Kingdom? The worst you can do is a thirty-dollar return. Take out your one dollar seed and you’ve made twenty-nine dollars. Now what do you do? Don’t go out and buy a thirty-dollar shirt. That is what most of us do. We consume our seed. Instead, sow more seed. What if you sowed all thirty dollars? That would then yield 30 X 30, right? Now you have nine hundred dollars. What if you sowed all nine hundred dollars? Now you have twenty-seven thousand dollars. Just imagine if you got the sixty or hundredfold return.

So here in my point. God is not a magician, He is a multiplier. He takes what He has and makes universes and humans and trees and animals with it. He takes what you give Him and He expands it. When you understand that this is the way God operates it will change your life. For one, you are going to understand Him and the Bible unlike ever before. Second, it will set you free. Sow into Him. Let Him be your investment counselor. I only showed you this truth through the examples of money and tomatoes, but it works for everything. Again I ask, what do you need? What do you want? Put on your overalls and start farming. For goodness sake, get out there and start sowing some seeds.

Gentle Speech

Proverb 15: 1, 4

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit.

This is such an important lesson to learn and I know many of you have. For the rest of us, it is an easy way to fail. I have learned that the same message can be conveyed abruptly or gently, harshly or mildly. It often takes more words to say something gently, but the message is received more easily when it is offered in tender words.

I am the kind of person who likes to just say what I am thinking and move on with life. I don’t like taking the time to craft a sentence with fifteen words when I can say it with five. However, I am learning that gentility of speech is a major leadership skill. The time it takes to make the message more palatable is worth the effort in the way your hearers receive it.

Tone of voice is important too, as you know, and we all need to learn to take the time and effort to speak with one another in gentle tones and with soothing words. Many household arguments could be avoided by answering in a gentle way. It is guaranteed that if you answer your spouse with a harsh word that you are going to stir up the hornet’s nest.

You can make your same point and have it received more readily when you use soothing language, gentle speech. People are able to hear your message rather than conflict with the means of conveyance. When we are short with people, they have already stopped listening from the start. It seems like a waste of time and energy to use flowery speech when two or three words can get the job done but when you consider that the communication involves two people you can also see that not alienating one of them will make our communication more effective.

There is no value in stirring up anger. The value we have for our listeners really demands that we consider the wrapping our message is cloaked in. None of us wishes to crush the spirit of the listener and even though it may feel like a waste of your time, the spirit of the other person weighs more heavily in the calculation. I wish everyone would let me communicate in my communication style but is it obvious from this proverb that there are effective and ineffective ways of speaking to people. If we want to be a blessing, then we have to learn to use gentle language rather than harsh and abrupt. Just consider it a part of your own personal growth and a way to bless God. In the end, you may find that you are the one most blessed by your gentle turn of a phrase.

Redirect

Mark 5: 36

Do not be afraid any longer, only believe.

We are given many opportunities to be afraid. For some people those opportunities present themselves daily. But Jesus has an answer for that fear. The answer is his love (1 John 4: 18). There is no fear in love and his perfect love casts out fear. So, we are to abide in his love so that we may overcome fear rather than be overcome by it.

There are times you fear for your children and fear for your health. Sometimes situations look desperate and fear arises. But once you have lived this life long enough, you begin to realize that fear attracts negative things to itself while positive attitudes reject fear. As you gain a little experience you find that no matter how hopeless a situation appears, there is always a way out of it. There is always a glorious answer.

This is not to minimize the problems people face. There are huge challenges out there; otherwise there would really be no need for this teaching. Jesus knew that each and every one of us was going to face frightening circumstances. That is why he taught us to redirect our focus onto him. When we think about his miracle working power and the things he has pulled off for us in the past, we are able to face new challenges with much more faith. So, when you feel fear creeping into your heart, quickly redirect your mind to thinking about the miracles of Jesus. Think about things he has worked out in your life in the past and move your emotions over to faith in him rather than belief in that which you fear.